McCarl Dental Group –
It’s All in the Family
By Jane Dodd
Published in the Greenbelt News Review, September 30, 2010
Some things are timeless. If you live in Greenbelt, you readily understand that concept. Much of the original community has remained structurally the same for 73 years. The center, the buildings, the traffic patterns and community spirit are all alive and well after all this time. Greenbelt even has a dentistry practice that has remained in the same family, alive and well, for 72 years.
The McCarl Dental Group had its beginnings here in 1938 when James McCarl moved his practice to 30 Ridge Road. He was chosen as the town’s only private medical practitioner in this new experimental community. Other medical practices were in the Greenbelt Health Association. McCarl was required to demonstrate a cooperative energetic spirit and to show a willingness to contribute heavily to the fledgling town. These requirements the young dentist met easily, for he was active in the American Legion, Scouting, the Community Church and other community organizations.
One of the McCarl Dental Group’s present patients even preceded Greenbelt. Gus Torbert lived on the 110-acre family farm sold reluctantly to the U.S. government to become part of the Greenbelt community. Their homestead was on the hill near where Ridge and Crescent Roads meet. His father, a carpenter, helped to build and later maintain the city.
During the depression money was scarce. You didn’t go to the dentist unless you had a real problem. When he was about 10, Torbert recalls he went to the original Dr. McCarl. Torbert has a more vivid memory of when he was 17 and had to have work done on an impacted wisdom tooth.
Another long-term patient, Francis Birchard, said he began seeing Dr. James McCarl when he as a youngster had a toothache. He has been returning ever since.
In 1946, when Lewis Dodd was about to go in the army, his parents insisted he see a dentist and have his teeth checked before the U.S. Army dentist saw him. They had already had one son taken care of by wartime Army dentists and did not want to repeat the experience. Dodd and his family have been seeing the McCarls ever since.
The family practice went on to the second generation in 1955 and 1956 when McCarl’s two sons, James Taylor and Clayton, Sr. joined the practice after completing their own studies at their father’s alma mater, the University of Maryland Baltimore School of Dental Surgery. With the three of them in one building they needed more space and took over the entire building at 28 Ridge Road.
After their father’s death in 1967 the two brothers continued on until 1989, when James Taylor died. During this time Clayton, Sr. held various leadership positions in professional organizations within the state and community.
Judy Ransom Bell has been a patient of one McCarl or another, she says, since she was a pre-schooler. She described Clayton, Sr. as “wonderful.” She remembers the “laughing gas” that was used then.
During some very lean financial years he took care of her, impressing on her the importance of consistent dental care. Even when she moved from Greenbelt, she still came to her favorite dentist.
Now returned to Greenbelt, she goes to Clayton, Jr. and Sally. What amazes Bell is how the offspring have followed in their parents’ footsteps and become a part of the family business. The pleasant atmosphere and friendly staff even make it fun, she says, to go to the dentist.
Another long- time patient, Therese Madden Stringfellow, has been having the McCarls care for her teeth for over 50 years. Her parents wanted the best care for their three children, she says, and when they heard of the new process of capping teeth, they sent Therese to see James Taylor McCarl. She still has her capped front teeth and sees Dr. Clayton regularly.
Stringfellow’s sister Mary even worked for the family of dentists. Both of her sisters, now widowed, had moved to other parts of the country, she says. But they are returning to Greenbelt this fall and, yes, they plan to have the McCarl Group be their dentists once again.
The third generation of McCarls carries on the tradition. If you go to 28 Ridge Road where the McCarl Dental Group is still practicing, you will see their signs hanging there. Dr. Clayton McCarl, Jr., Dr. Jay McCarl and Sally McCarl-Moore are offspring of Clayton Sr.; Dr. David is the son of Dr. James Taylor McCarl. Sally chose to be the hygienist in the family.
Aren’t you glad they adopted the name the “McCarl Dental Group”? Can you imagine the alphabet soup of four McCarls, Jr.s and DDSs all in one title? History isn’t just about wars and buildings; it’s also about people and their traditions. The McCarl family is an important part of the rich history of Greenbelt.